My name is Maria Augusta Von Trapp. Although the Sound of Music was a beautiful movie that painted a perfect happy ending story it was not completely accurate, and I would like to tell you some of the little known facts about my life. I was born in Austria in 1905 on a train. My mother Augusta was determined to get back home to my father after a visit to her family even though it was almost time for my arrival. I decided to arrive early, and thankfully there was a doctor on the train who assisted in my birth. My mother was so beautiful and I loved her dearly. Unfortunately my mother passed away when I was very young, and my father Karl Kutschera was heartbroken. He left me with his cousin Katey and went to travel the world to help him endure the loss of his beloved wife. My cousin was older and had raised her family and was not ready for a small child to raise, however she was kind to me but not at all affectionate. When I was nine my father passed away, and my cousin Katey’s daughter and husband came to live with us. He required I call him Uncle Franz and became my guardian. He was very abusive. If I came home from school the least bit late or if I laughed too loud or did not do what I was told immediately he would whip me. I learned to survive I must do whatever he said. But when I was 13, I began to rebel, regardless of the beatings I would receive, I became outspoken, skipped school, and stayed out with my girlfriends after school. I still got very good grades in school, which infuriated my guardian.
I decided after high school I would go to a teachers college to further my education and be able to have a carrier of my own. My “Uncle Franz” sneered at me and said how was I going to fund this? I never thought to ask about my fathers estate, which would have been sizeable. I never knew what became of his money. I found out later that Uncle Franz had been sent to an institution for the mentally ill as it was discovered he also beat his wife. I struck out on my own. I snuck out one night and went to my best friends home town, Semmering which was nearby. Although the family already had 7 children they made a place for me and I went the next day to find a job at a hotel as a maid. I even worked for a while as a tennis teacher although I had never played the game in my life, thankfully the children I was teaching had never played the game either.
I was able to go to school in the fall and as I had no parents I received scholarships that helped me make it through. Often I felt as if God had abandoned me and determined there must not be a God. But on weekends churches around Austria held concerts of classical music on weekends, so I would often attend church for the music. I tried to close out what the minister was saying but often felt a lack in my life. When I graduated I went with some friends on a weeks climb in the alps.
One morning I got up and looked at the sunrise and the snow banks covered in pink and tangerine hues. I realized that someone greater than I could imagine had created all this beauty so, I opened my arms wide and asked God into my heart and asked Him what He wanted from my life. I climbed down the mountain that day convinced I was to be a nun. I went to Nonnberg as I was told this was the strictest convent in the area and climbed up the mountain to the convent and marched up to the doorway and when the nuns came to the door, I said, “Here I am!! I am here to stay”. They were very surprised! I was assigned my own nun in charge of novices they said I was a handful! Just like in the movie, I sang when I was supposed to be quiet, I slid down the Abby banister, I whistled after dark and loved to jump over the chimneys on top of the buildings. During our times of quiet prayer and meditation I would sometimes pinch the other novices to break the silence. Many times I was called into the Mother Superiors office and disciplined, however she often smiled at me as I was leaving and I think she liked me. I was asked to teach a class of children in the local Catholic school and did so with gusto. I was never happier then when I was with children, running, playing games, singing and laughing!
At the end of the school year I was asked to teach a young girl of 13 also named Maria who was recovering from Scarlett Fever. She was the daughter of a famous hero and Captain of the Austrian Navy Captain Karl von Trapp. I did not want to leave the abby as it had become my home, where I felt safe and for the first time in my life where I felt I belonged, but I knew I had to be obedient, so I went with heavy heart.
How strange I must have looked to the Captain and children when I arrived with rumpled grey suit, straw hat, suit case and guitar. Just like in the movie, the children giggled when they looked at me I wondered why. Little did I know that 26 governesses had preceded me in only four years. The children were called to attention by the captain with a brass whistle and immediately I could see the sadness and loneliness in their eyes. Their names were Johanna, Martina, Maria, Hedwig, and Agatha, Rupert and Werner I determined that I would somehow reach them with God’s love even though I was only to tutor to the little girl Maria.
It was not easy at first, but I convinced the housekeeper to purchase play clothes and shoes for the children and began to take them on hikes and picnics as Maria grew stronger she came along. It was wonderful to see them open up. I also brought my guitar along and began to teach them to sing. Their mother had a beautiful voice and after she died their father had forbidden music in the house. But as he heard us singing one evening he took up his violin long silent and began to play with tears running down his cheeks.
By Christmas we seemed like one happy family. In the spring Princess Yvonne came to visit and the housekeeper informed me she and the Captain were to be wed in the spring. I was happy, thinking that the children would have a mother now. To my shock only a few days after her arrival she came to me and said that she was leaving as Georg was in love with me. I was shocked! How could this be? I ran away to the Abby and asked the Rev. Mother what to do. She told me that I must follow God’s plan for my life and not my own, so I returned to the Von Trapp home. The children begged me to marry their father. He came to me and pledged his love. I admit that at first I felt I only married for the children and was angry with God for not allowing me to become a nun. However it was not long before Georg had won my heart with his tender ways and kindness to me.
We began to sing as a family around Austria at festivals and had a wonderful time! We loved to hike deep into the beautiful Alps and would be gone for weeks at a time. However war was looming on the horizon and Adolph Hitler was gaining control of much of Europe. We were told to fly the Nazi flag, which Georg refused to do. We were then asked to sing at Hitler’s birthday party which we also refused to do. We knew our days in Austria were numbered. Georg told us to pack as if we were going on a hike in Northern Italy. We took a train in our hiking clothes, little knowing it was the last train allowed out of Austria. Now in Northern Italy we felt stranded. Georg suggested we sing to acquire money to live on. So we sang at restaurants for our supper, at lodges for rooms to stay in, we sang at churches and people gave us food and clothing, we were refugees now which after being rich was very hard for the children. Georg remembered a contact he had in the US who had asked us to come and sing. He wrote to him and he sent us passage on the “American Farmer” to the US. Once we arrived at Ellis Island we were detained for almost a week because in my excitement on arriving in the US I said “I never want to leave” as we were applying for our 6 month visas! They did not take the statement lightly.
Although no one but our family knew I was pregnant,our first child together Johannes was born in Pennsylvania while we were on a singing tour of the US. ( I hid my pregnancy under a white apron I always wore)
We bought an old bus and fixed it up as a tour bus. We traveled, ate and slept in the bus as we toured for many years. It was not always easy. After a while we decided we would like to have a home of our own.
In the early 1940’s our family bought an old farm house in Stowe Vermont and ended up rebuilding the whole house. We also leased property that had belonged to the state and run as a CCC camp and turned it into a music camp during the summer. Both of the older boys Kurt and Werner were drafted in the Army during WWII. Those of us who were left at home worked hard restoring both properties into working condition. Each of us had a task, and I am ashamed to say I was often a hard taskmaster.
After the war we returned to touring some and in the summer held music camps. We used our fame while on tour to raise money for our homeland and we sent 275,000 pounds of food, clothing and donations to Austria through the Trapp family Austrian Relief fund.
After we were finished with that project I noticed that Georg was weary and sent him home to rest. He developed pneumonia, tests in the hospital revealed that he also had lung cancer; I left our tour and went to his side immediately. He passed quietly with all of us at his side. During our marriage I had a very bad temper and would throw things and stomp my feet at times when I was angry. Poor mild tempered Georg never argued back but after my outburst would be quiet for days trying to recover. After his death I grieved so over how I treated him at times. I eventually went to a priest who offered prayers for me and finally found peace.
We performed at over 2,000 concerts worldwide in the 20 years our family was together, and now we wanted to stay home and run the lodge and music camp. Several of the children were married with children of their own now and no longer wanted to tour.
All three of my children Rosmarie and Eleonore and Johannes and I went to New Guinea to do missionary work, my children returned home after 3 years and I stayed on and worked there for 30 years working with the children in the villages and tending the sick!
I was tricked into signing away my rights to our story by German producers and our family received money for all of the success of the play and movie. But during the filming of the sound of music, Julie Andrews invited me to come to the set and see some of the filming. It was intriguing to me to see Julie was so beautiful and the part of Maria she portrayed me as so kind and loving, the way I wished I had always been. Then she pointed Christopher Plumber out to me as the man playing Georg. WOW! He was so handsome. I walked up to him and said that I wished Georg had been as handsome as he. He smiled and I rushed forward and gave him a big kiss right on the mouth! He was surprised!!! It was such a happy memory! I eventually retired back to the lodge and spent the last of my days there quietly enjoying my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Maria passed away of heart failure at the age of 82 in 1987 and is buried beside her beloved husband on the family farm in Stowe Vt. The Von Trapp Family lodge now includes 2,500 acres of beauty, on which there are apartments villas and a huge hotel and is run by Maria and Georg’s son Johnnes .